Friday, September 23, 2005

From Denmark

Hi again,

Last evening we said goodbye to the gracious Norwegians and their magnificent country when we took the overnight ferry from Larvik to Frederikshaven. The 'ferry' turned out to be equal in every way to the five star Pearl of Scandinavia on which we cruised from Copenhagen to Oslo. In fact our cabins were larger and the duty free shop excellent. Our group anxiously replenished there liquor supplies on board so everyone is very happy tonight!

Since last I emailed we have travelled more stunning countryside over thrilling and sometimes quite hairy mountainous roads. Twice we went through the world's longest tunnel - 24.5kms. One road in particular is very memorable, the trollstigen. Diffinitely not to be missed if you are visiting Norway. On this road one feels they have entered another galaxy - very moon-scapy (if that is a word). The road is a dramatic and exciting experience making eleven swings down the steep mountain from 858 metres above sea level. It crossed the wonderful Stigfossen waterfall and a very impressive old stone bridge which often features in travel broachures. Our drivers
John and Wal are really doing a fabulous job and handling these tricky roads without effort.
We took the famous Flam railway which is the highest in the world. 866 metres of zig zags through valleys; sheer mountain peaks and passing spectacular waterfalls and 20 tunnels in all and of course panoramic views.

Everyone loved the beautifl and unique fishing town of Alusund which was almost totally destroyed by fire in 1904 and rebuilt in Art Nouveau style.

Beautiful Bergen almost lived up to its tag 'it never stops raining in Bergen'! We were very lucky and did have one almost full day of sunshine which was wonderful and allowed us to amble through the famous open markets and take the funicular cbale train up the mountain for a clear panorama of this world heritage listed city. I loved the old tall wooden colourful structures of Bryggen . These too have frequently burnt down and were rebuilt in the traditional style. They now house fascinating small galleries , craft shops, restaurants and museams. Bergen is also known for its music. We visited Edward Griegs beautiful fjoid side home where the composed many of his best known pieces. One of the best things we had in Bergen was a steak dinner at the Big Horn Steak House, being almost fished-out it was terrific!
The weather continues to be kind to us. Yesterday we had a day which alternative between sunshine and light rain. We travelled through some rugged countryside with tremendous waterfalls and swollen waterways. Our farmers would cry if they could see all this water and the sheep and cattle grazing on very lush green fields.

Thanks to everyone who has emailed, it is great to hear from you. I am absolutely thrilled that Sydney Swans are in the Grand final and very envious of those of you who are going to Melbourne to watch the game. Barrack for me too please. With fingers crossed, I will anxiously await the text scores next weekend.

We are going to do this tour again in 2006 and the itinerary is on our website. So it you want to follow our progress on this tour, just visit the website.

We are now in Ribe the oldest town in Denmark and our hotel here was built in 1541 and is of course heritage listed. It has been renovated with all the modern cons which has not spoilt the ambience and old world charm.

Will go now and enjoy some duty free gin before our splash up dinner which I happen to know is wild mushroom soup, roast lamb followed by chocolate cake with three creams. We say everyday we need another feed like a hole in the head but then turn up for every meal!

Until my next missive, take care.

Monday, September 12, 2005

From Norway

Hello Everyone,

Well here we are in Norway which has to be the country with the most majestic scenery in the world.

Nine days ago we flew into wonderful wonderful Copenhagen, Denmarks capitol and the home of Hans Christian Anderson. It is a colourful walking city and so small and intimate it only takes a day to get to know it. On our second day there some of us hired bikes and cycled throughout the city - even through the Royal Palace courtyard past our Mary's house! Of cource we visited the Little Mermaid (and she is very little) and the Tivoli Gardens. We lunched in one of the famous restaurants along the very colourful Nyhavn Canal - a top tourist attraction with prices to match.

We cruised to Oslo on the five star Pearl of Scandinavia - a very regal ocean liner. Oslo is an instant indicator of how the Norwegians enjoy life. The world cup qualifier between Scotland and Norway was played the second night we were there. You can imagine the city was brimming with kilt wearing Scots carrying huge soccar banners who later celebrated their ultimate victory with much merriment. Thank goodness for hotel couble glazed windows. I can also tell you that Scots definitely do not wear anything under their kilts.
There is plenty to do in this city. The nations Vikings history is well recorded in a dedicated Viking Museum which houses the world's best preserved Viking ships. We also visited the Norsk Folkemusuem which is on one the most comprehensive and best presented museum compounds I have ever seen. Another unforgettable highlight of this city is the Vigeland sculpture park. This park features a series of human figures in white granite depicting very stage of human life cycle. Gustav Vigeland was the sculptor - a Norwegian with his own very colourful past.We sipped on hot chocolate as we wondered at the scale of the famous Holmankollen Ski jump. Truly frightening.

From Oslo we ventured to the country side and mountains to travel through the most beautiful unspoilt scenery in the world. We have stayed in lovely hotels in stunning small villages surrounded with snow capped mountains and glistening fiords and waterfalls. We took the famous Hellesylt ferry to Geiranger via the Geiranger fiord - postcard panoramas of breathtaking dimentions.

We have eated the freshest salmon and Norway is heaven on a stick for those who enjoy herrings. Fruit tastes like fruit did when we were kids. Alcolhol is expensive. 60 dollars for a bottle of house wine. 12 dollars for a glass of beer.

It is a fun group who enjoy life and pack everything into their day. We have played cards and danced evenings away. Our Irsih lady has taught us how to 'play the spoons'. Can't wait to play them for you!!

So far we have been blessed with perfect weather but expect to experience a colder climate as we meander north. Tomorrow we move onto Alesund.

I wish you could all be here to share this wonderful journey. I can't tell you how breathtaking it is.

Until my next update - stay well,